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ATPM 6.02
February 2000



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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings from a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

The Play-Doh Principle

Being the dad of a two-year-old son can have its moments.

First, can someone please explain just what language my son is speaking? I know that my wife and I are only using English around the house, but he is speaking some type of hybrid Toddler/English creole. Of course, the only words he can say clearly are the bad ones daddy uses when the college basketball team he is rooting for decides to turn the ball over late in the game.

Also, can anyone explain the magical power that the Teletubbies exert over young children? Now, for breakfast, my son only wants Tubby Toast and Tubby Custard. Do you know how stupid you look when you walk into a grocery store and ask the sales clerk where they keep the Tubby Toast? I’m surprised I haven’t had to post bail yet.

And, can someone please tell me how to get crayon marks off the walls? Or Play-Doh out of the carpet? I realize these items can help my son explore his creativity, but why aren’t there cleaning instructions on the containers they come in?

Cleaning problems aside, it is a lot of fun to watch my son attack a can of Play-Doh. He puts those little hands into the mound of brightly colored goo, kneads it, then drops it all over the carpet and moves onto the next project.

I have discovered, however, that when he can stay with a project for a while, he can create masterpieces. He works his magic in one of two ways—he can either slap a couple of cans of this stuff together and sculpt something huge, or he can pull the glob apart and create smaller mini-sculptures.

In much the same way, the companies that form the high-tech industry have and are undergoing similar dynamic reconfigurations. Corporate mergers and splits are not a new phenomena—as anyone who may have followed business news during the tumultuous 80s can attest. The only thing that marks these new information mergers is the frequency and speed at which they happen.

Some companies act sort of like snowballs. Their initial idea or product gains momentum, and soon they roll merrily along, incorporating other smaller start-up companies. A perfect example of this is Adobe, which, over the years has grabbed Aldus, Frame Technologies, and Go Live.

Other companies are being mashed together in large mergers. For instance, the recent acquisition of Time Warner by America Online goes on record as the largest business merger in history. Time Warner, which owns such well known brands as CNN, People magazine, and Bugs Bunny, will provide AOL with an incredible amount of exposure.

Time Warner also brings to the table an enormous pipeline into the living rooms around the country. As with many cable customers out there, my cable company is Time Warner. That’s not the company I first signed up with—that company was bought out by Time Warner about five years ago. In fact, if you look around the Tampa Bay media market, you’ll see that Time Warner has jumped in and taken over the lion’s share of cable operations in each of the surrounding counties. And, with the popularity of Time Warner’s Road Runner high-speed cable modem service, well, AOL’s Steve Case finds himself in the catbird seat.

So, what does this mean for the average Internet user? Well, a quick visit to ZD Net’s user feedback page shows that the people who are weighing in are not liking this merger one bit. A sampling of the comments runs as follows:

I too am a Road Runner subscriber and I have never been more disgusted with the prospect of having to deal with the BS from AOL on any level. If the Exec’s at Time think that the Power Users of RR will keep their service they are in [for] a big surprise. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Austin, Texas

All of a sudden, Bill Gates doesn’t seem so creepy...and we all thought he was the monopolist.
Rhode Island

AOL is bad news. Especially for anyone who wants freedom. They are dominating the Internet market totally. I had AOL for a while and then switched because of the way they control their customers. You are bombarded with all kinds of ads, and it is not enough that they charge an outrageous price for their service, they charge for just about everything else that they have for you to use.
San Diego, California

Other changes to the landscape involve splits. The biggest split-up looming on the horizon involves everyone’s favorite company from Redmond, Washington—Microsoft. As you are all aware—especially if you hold any Apple stock—Federal Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has found, based on the evidence provided by the US Department of Justice and 19 states, that Microsoft indeed fit the description of a monopoly.

Now that the determination has been made, the penalty phase will begin this month. Word has it that the Department of Justice attorneys are going to recommend that Microsoft be broken into at least two pieces—one that handles the Windows OS and another that handles such applications as Microsoft Office. These ‘Baby Bills’—similar to the ‘Baby Bells’ created after the AT&T break up in the early 80s—would then have to compete in the market independent of each other.

One interesting side effect of such a breakup would be that the OS segment of Microsoft would still be in charge of the OS running on about 90% of personal computers in place. In effect, this ‘Baby Bill’ would still have a monopoly over operating systems—hardly a good solution. Perhaps other penalties would need to be added in order to level the playing field.

Needless to say, this would open the door for Apple to make some headway back into the homes and offices which unceremoniously dumped Macintosh during the dark days of the mid 90s.

A break up of Microsoft would also be a boon for anyone who happened to be holding the company’s stock. If AT&T’s break up is any precedent, you can bet that the stock of these ‘Baby Bills’ will make many people rich as the world only becomes more dependent on computer technology.

And, what about the CEO every Apple fan loves to hate? Well, on January 13th, Bill Gates announced that after 25 years of being the big man, he was going to turn the reins of Microsoft to long-time colleague Steve Ballmer.

Bill Gates has got to be part cat—he has nine lives and always manages to land on his feet. Just think about the beauty of this move. Gates has developed one of the largest software juggernauts on the planet. He has made an obscene amount of money (check out Brad Templeton’s Bill Gates Wealth Index for some interesting facts). And, now, he won’t have to be the man in charge when the government’s axe falls.

And, what about Mr. Gates? Will he just go fishing? Take up golf full-time? Nah. According to Gates, “I’m returning to what I love most—focusing on technologies for the future.” He’ll serve as Microsoft’s Chairman, as well as Chief Software Architect.

Now that he’s slowing down and taking things easy, maybe he can spend some time working with Play-Doh.

apple“Apple Cider: Random Squeezings from a Mac user” is copyright © 2000 Tom Iovino,

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Reader Comments (3)

anonymous · February 20, 2002 - 12:46 EST #1
What was Play-Doh originally used for?
Tom Iovino (ATPM Staff) · March 12, 2003 - 09:07 EST #2
I'm not really sure. Some type of evil science experiment?
anonymous · January 5, 2005 - 09:54 EST #3
to get crayon marks off of walls...WD40 works wonders.

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